Although antibiotics have little or no benefit for most upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs), they continue to be prescribed frequently in primary care. Physicians perceive that patients’ expectations influence their antibiotic prescribing practice; however, not all patients seek antibiotic treatment despite having similar symptoms. In this study, we explored patients’ views about URTIs, and the ways patients manage them (including attendance in primary care and taking antibiotics).
Using a qualitative descriptive design, adult English-speaking individuals at a Canadian health center were recruited through convenient sampling. The participants were interviewed using semi-structured interview guide based on the Common Sense-Self-Regulation Model (CS-SRM). The interviews were transcribed verbatim and coded according to CS-SRM dimensions (illness representations, coping strategies). Sampling continued until thematic saturation was achieved. Thematic analysis related to the dimensions of CS-SRM was applied.
Generally, participants had accurate perception about the symptoms of URTIs, as well as how to prevent and manage them. However, some participants revealed misconceptions about the causes of URTIs. Almost all participants mentioned that they only visited their doctor if their symptoms got progressively worse and they could no longer self-manage the symptoms. When visiting a doctor, most participants reported that they did not seek antibiotics. They expected to receive an examination and an explanation for their symptoms.
Our participants reported good understanding regarding the likely lack of benefit from antibiotics for URTIs. Developing interventions that specifically help patients discuss their concerns with their physicians, instead of providing more education to public may help in reducing the use of unnecessary antibiotics.